Tolling is a legal principle that permits the suspension or extension of the time limit set by a statute of limitations, allowing a lawsuit to be potentially filed even after the time limit has expired. The grounds for tolling the statute of limitations vary based on the jurisdiction, but some common grounds include situations where:
- the plaintiff was a minor when the cause of action arose
- the plaintiff has been deemed mentally incompetent
- the plaintiff has been imprisoned due to a felony conviction
- the defendant has filed for bankruptcy
- the defendant is not present in the relevant jurisdiction
- the parties were in good faith negotiations to resolve the dispute outside of court when the statute of limitations expired
Tolling may be explicitly provided for by a specific statute, or it may take the form of equitable tolling, where the court uses principles of equity to extend the time for filing a document.
Tolling in Texas
In Texas, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is generally two years from the date of the accident or injury. However, there are certain circumstances that can pause or delay the running of this time period, and this is known as tolling. There are a number of grounds for tolling the statute of limitations in Texas, including:
- Minors: If the injured party is a minor at the time of the accident or injury, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they turn 18 years old.
- Mental incapacity: If the injured party is deemed mentally incompetent, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they regain their mental capacity.
- Incarceration: If the injured party is convicted of a felony and is imprisoned, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they are released from prison.
- Bankruptcy: If the defendant files for bankruptcy, this may trigger an automatic stay of other lawsuits, including the statute of limitations.
- Out of state defendant: If the defendant is not physically within Texas, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they return to the state.
- Good-faith negotiations: If the parties are engaged in good-faith negotiations to resolve a dispute without litigation when the statute of limitations expires, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the negotiations are concluded.
In addition to these specific grounds for tolling, there may be other circumstances where tolling may be appropriate. For example, if the injured party is unaware of their injury or the cause of their injury until some time after the accident, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they discover the injury or its cause. Tolling does not extend the statute of limitations indefinitely. Rather, it merely pauses or delays the running of the time period for a specific amount of time. In Texas, the maximum length of time that the statute of limitations can be tolled is typically one year.
Navigating the statute of limitations and tolling in personal injury cases can be complex, and it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you understand your rights and options. With the right legal guidance, injured parties can ensure that their rights are protected and that they receive the compensation they are entitled to under the law.